International Contemporary Dance Festival


Akram Khan Company

Outwitting the Devil

World Première Stuttgart, 13 July 2019

Night after night I have the same dream: I am young, immortal, an axe in my hand.
The young man cannot imagine the old man he will become.

“As I arrive at the end of my dancing career, I have awakened to a new way of dancing. And that is to dance my ideas through the bodies of others, including older dancers, who carry their histories and complex emotional experiences within them. But what remains unchanged is my passion for exploring old and new myths in the context of our times.”

The truth was a mirror in the hands of God. It
fell, and broke into pieces.
Everybody took a piece, they looked at it
and thought they had the truth.


Outwitting the Devil is inspired by a fragment of  the 12 broken clay tablets which together make up one of  the world’s oldest great works of literature, the ancient Sumerian Epic of Gilgamesh. Akram Khan’s new work embodies a violent chapter in young Gilgamesh’s life, read and recalled by his older, dying self. It tells the story of Gilgamesh’s domestication of and friendship with the wild man Enkidu, their journey to the vast Cedar Forest, home to wild beings and spirits, and the slaughter of its guardian Humbaba. Fuelled by strength and pride, Young Gilgamesh determines to establish his fame and fortify the city of Uruk as a monument to himself. But the killing of Humbaba and destruction of the forest and its animals angers the gods, who punish the young king by taking the life of his beloved Enkidu. Confronted with the truth and sorrow of human mortality, Gilgamesh passes into history, to become a fragment among the broken remnants of human culture and memory. Outwitting the Devil is a myth of all times, for our times. As a young British Bangladeshi boy growing up in South London, I remember seeing The Last Supper on a printed A4 page in my art class. I was told it was one of the most famous paintings in the world, and was asked to draw my own version of it. I now realise that at the time I was uncomfortable and confused by the depiction. I could not see anything of myself in it, or of the culture and religion I grew up in. It was foreign to me. Or perhaps, I was foreign to it. It did not reflect me, or the people in my street – who came from many different cultures – in any way I could relate to.

Outwitting the Devil began around a table, with an image of the Last Supper. Or rather, it began with Australian artist Susan Dorothea White’s response to Leonardo da Vinci’s iconic painting, which she titled The First Supper, and which depicted women of many cultures gathered at a table. White’s intention was to challenge the assumptions of a patriarchal religion. Akram Khan saw an image of the painting as a schoolboy and was struck by the diversity of bodies and cultures depicted there. How we tell the stories of our myths matters: our systems of belief and our forms of power are defined by the question of who sits at the table.

Central to Tom Scutt’s design for Outwitting the Devil is a large black wooden box; it suggests a table, and also a tomb - the first as well as the last supper. It is both a meeting place and a monument, and it sits among hundreds of fragments and remnants suggesting the ruins of human culture and the despoliation of the natural world. The idea of the first supper took us back to the origin stories of one of the world’s first ‘civilisations’ – that of ancient Sumer – recorded in the Epic of Gilgamesh some 4000 years ago.

Gilgamesh may have been an historical king of Uruk in Southern Mesopotamia. His rule coincided with the rise of large walled cities, stratified urban culture, slavery, warfare, literary writing, and the creation of historical records. His culture was patriarchal and hierarchical; his gods took human form and were thought to have made mankind – like the tablets on which scribes recorded his timeless deeds – out of clay. But people, like clay tablets, like the great city of Uruk and Sumerian civilisation itself, fall and break. Among the fragments of the Epic unearthed in Iraq in 2011 was a clay shard containing 20 previously unknown lines from Tablet V. They describe Gilgamesh’s awe at the abundance and biodiversity of the great Cedar Forest, and Enkidu’s shame at having reduced it ‘to a wasteland’. This is, in effect, the world’s first environmental poem.

Outwitting the Devil is at once a memory and a confession, a puzzle pieced together in the dark that contains the story of who we once were, and may again become.


I remember their screams Their open mouths Their faces to the sky How they came apart

At the joints and the seams Their faces in their hands Their faces at night

Their faces in the ground, I was strong to perfection A raging bull

A terror An axe

A prophecy

There was a forest The smell of rain

I remember

How they fell and broke

I cut down the Cedar Forest

I carried the Forest guardian’s head.

I remember they were tender There were tender parts

Soft as the hand Soft as the eyelash Soft as the bone

Soft as the heart

– text by Jordan Tannahill –

Artistic team & credits

Artistic Director/Choreographer Akram Khan

Dramaturg Ruth Little

Lighting Designer Aideen Malone

Visual Designer Tom Scutt

Original Music Score and Sound Design Vincenzo Lamagna

Costume Designer Kimie Nakano

Writer Jordan Tannahill

Rehearsal Director and Coach Mavin Khoo

Voice-over Dominique Petit

Material devised and performed by Ching-Ying Chien, Andrew Pan, Dominique Petit, James Pham, Mythili Prakash, Sam Pratt, James Vu Anh Pham

Executive Producer Farooq Chaudhry

Technical Manager Tina Fagan

Production Manager Rich Fagan

Stage Manager Lars Davidson

Lighting Engineer Stéphane Déjours

Sound Engineer Phil Wood

Project/Tour Manager Mashitah Omar

LED Light Tube manufactured and supplied by Light Contrast Ltd

Co-produced by Théâtre de Namur – Centre Scénique, CENTRAL – Centre Culturel de La Louvière, Festival d’Avignon, Théâtre de la Ville – Paris, Sadler’s Wells London, La Comédie de Clermont-Ferrand – scène nationale, COLOURS International Dance Festival 2019 – Stuttgart

Supported by Arts Council England

Akram Khan is an Associate Artist of Sadler’s Wells London and Curve Leicester.

Special thanks to Alistair Spalding, Vincent Thirion and Melanie Dumoulin, Patrick Colpé, Meinrad Huber and Eric Gauthier, Olivier Py and Agnès Troly, and the teams at Sadler’s Wells, CENTRAL – La Louvière, Théâtre de Namur, COLOURS Festival and Festival d’Avignon, Tamas Detrich and the team at Stuttgart Ballet, Mr. & Mrs. Khan, Yuko Khan, Aharya Dresses for Mythili Prakash’s costume and all the collaborators and technicians who have worked on the project.

Akram Khan

Artistic Director/Choreographer

Akram Khan is one of the most celebrated and respected dance artists today. In just over 18 years he has created a body of work that has contributed significantly to the arts in the UK and abroad. His reputation has been built on the success of imaginative, highly accessible and relevant productions such as Until the Lions, Kaash, iTMOi (in the mind of igor), DESH, Vertical Road, Gnosis and zero degrees.

An instinctive and natural collaborator, Khan has been a magnet to world-class artists from other cultures and disciplines. His previous collaborators include the National Ballet of China, actress Juliette Binoche, ballerina Sylvie Guillem, choreographers/dancers Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and Israel Galván, singer Kylie Minogue, visual artists Anish Kapoor, Antony Gormley and Tim Yip, writer Hanif Kureishi and composers Steve Reich, Nitin Sawhney, Jocelyn Pook and Ben Frost.

Khan’s work is recognised as being profoundly moving, in which his intelligently crafted storytelling is effortlessly intimate and epic. Described by the Financial Times as an artist “who speaks tremendously of tremendous things”, a highlight of his career was the creation of a section of the London 2012 Olympic Games Opening Ceremony that was received with unanimous acclaim.

As a choreographer, Khan has developed a close collaboration with English National Ballet and its Artistic Director Tamara Rojo. He created the short piece Dust, part of the Lest We Forget programme, which led to an invitation to create his own critically acclaimed version of the iconic romantic ballet Giselle.

Khan has been the recipient of numerous awards throughout his career including the Laurence Olivier Award, the Bessie Award (New York Dance and Performance Award), the prestigious ISPA (International Society for the Performing Arts) Distinguished Artist Award, the Fred and Adele Astaire Award, the Herald Archangel Award at the Edinburgh International Festival, the South Bank Sky Arts Award and six Critics’ Circle National Dance Awards. Khan was awarded an MBE for services to dance in 2005. He is also an Honorary Graduate of University of London as well as Roehampton and De Montfort Universities, and an Honorary Fellow of Trinity Laban.

Khan is an Associate Artist of Sadler’s Wells, London and Curve, Leicester.

Ruth Little


Ruth Little is a dance and theatre dramaturg, a teacher and writer. Her work has encompassed national arts organisations, remote rural communities, site-specific production and large and small-scale exhibitions and expeditions. She lectured in English Literature at the University of Sydney, and was Literary Manager at Out of Joint, Soho Theatre, the Young Vic and the Royal Court. Ruth was Associate Director at Cape Farewell from 2010-2016. She is dramaturg with Akram Khan Company (Gnosis, Vertical Road, DESH, iTMOi, Dust, technê, Until the Lions, Giselle) and has worked with Banff Arts Centre, Sadler’s Wells, Barbican, and many others. Winner of 2012 Kenneth Tynan Award for dramaturgy, Ruth has a number of publications including Art, Place, Climate: Situated Ethics, War in the Body, and The Meteorological Body.

Aideen Malone

Lighting Designer

Aideen studied Drama and Theatre at Trinity College Dublin and Goldsmiths College, University of London. She works on a rich variety of projects in theatre, dance, opera, site specific and installation. She has previously worked with Akram Khan on Polaroid Feet and Kaash in 2002. In theatre, she has collaborated with National Theatre, Bristol Old Vic, Lyric Hammersmith, Manchester Theatre Royal, Clod Ensemble, Young Vic, amongst many others. Aideen also enjoys working with young people in education, and is currently a tutor at ALRA and St Marys, Twickenham. She is a director of Junction designing lighting sculptures and installations.

Tom Scutt

Visual Designer

Tom is a London-based Designer for the stage and live events. A graduate from the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama in 2006, he regularly works at most of London’s major theatres including The National Theatre, The Royal Court, Almeida and Donmar Warehouse. On Broadway, Tom has provided set & costume designs for Constellations, King Charles III and Les Liaisons Dangereuses. His work reaches across live music (Sam Smith/Apple, MTV VMAs), dance (Hofesh Shechter - Grand Finale) and exhibition design (Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up at London’s V&A Museum). Tom is an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, an Associate Artist of the Donmar Warehouse and a resident at Somerset House Studios.

Vincenzo Lamagna


Vincenzo Lamagna is a musician, composer and producer based in London. His music is known for its visceral, emotive and edgy language that utilises an unconventional hybrid of electro-orchestral sounds. Vincenzo has carved a niche in the alternative contemporary dance world, where he has established himself as a major collaborator with some of the most acclaimed choreographers of this generation, Hofesh Shechter and Akram Khan. His most recent collaborations include Until the Lions and Akram Khan’s award winning 21st-century adaptation of Giselle for English National Ballet. His scores are a mercurial combination of acoustic and electronic music, recognised for their ferocious industrial undertones, haunted melodies and cinematic soundscapes.

Kimie Nakano

Costume Designer

Kimie Nakano has designed costumes for Northern Ballet, Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet, Companhia National de Bailado, English National Ballet, Van Huynh Company, The Royal Ballet of Flanders, Rambert Dance Company, David Nixon, Didy Veldman, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, José Agudo and Yabin Studio. Kimie’s opera production credits include: The Return of Ulysses by John Fulljames for Royal Opera and Tristan und Isolde by Carmen Jakobi for Longborough Festival Opera. Her designs for Akram Khan Company include: Vertical Road, Dust (English National Ballet’s Lest We Forget), iTMOi, TOROBAKA, Gnosis, Kaash, The Rashomon Effect (National Youth Dance Company), technê (choreographed for Sylvie Guillem, Life in Progress).

Jordan Tannahill


Jordan Tannahill has been ‘widely celebrated as one of Canada’s most accomplished young playwrights, filmmakers and all-round multidisciplinary artists’ (Toronto Star). His plays have been produced on major stages internationally and translated into eight languages, while his films and multimedia performances have been presented at festivals including the Toronto Int. Film Festival, the Tribeca Film Festival, and the Venice Biennial. In 2017, his play Late Company transferred to London’s West End. Upcoming: his virtual reality performance Draw Me Close, produced by the National Theatre (UK) and the National Film Board of Canada, will open at the Young Vic in January 2019.

Mavin Khoo

Rehearsal Director

Mavin Khoo is internationally recognised as a dance artist, teacher, choreographer and artist scholar. His initial training was in Malaysia. He then pursued his training in Bharatanatyam intensively under the legendary dance maestro Padma Shri Adyar K.Lakshman in India. As a contemporary dance artist, he has worked with Wayne McGregor, Akram Khan, Shobana Jeyasingh and many others. Khoo founded mavinkhooDance in 2003. He was Artistic Director of ŻfinMalta Dance Ensemble between 2014 - 2017. He currently maintains his touring work as a mature artist with a focus on solo Bharatanatyam performances and specifically commissioned contemporary duet works. He also worked as rehearsal director for Akram Khan Company production iTMOi and worked alongside Akram on Giselle (English National Ballet).

Ching-Ying Chien


Ching-Ying Chien was born in Taiwan and graduated from the National Taiwan University of Arts. As well as collaborating and creating work with a number of Taiwanese choreographers including Fang-Yi Sheu, Ching-Ying also worked as a physical model for Chinese artist Cai Guo-Qiang for his large-scale gunpowder on paper piece Day and Night. She has worked with Akram Khan Company since 2013 and achieved the ‘Outstanding Female Performance (Modern)’ award at the UK National Dance Awards in 2016. In addition to performing on stage, Ching-Ying worked with director Adam Smith to shoot music videos for the likes of Plan B and The Chemical Brothers earlier this year. Most recently she has presented her solo Vulture in London and Taiwan.

Andrew Pan


Andrew was born in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Studying at the Federal Academy of Ballet in Malaysia, he was offered a scholarship to study at the Central School of Ballet in London. During his second year at Central, Andrew guested at Dublin City Ballet, in Giselle dancing the part of ‘Peasant Pas De Deux’. After touring with Notre Dame de Paris for 3 years, he spent 5 years in the Celine Dion’s show A New Day in Las Vegas. Throughout his career Andrew has worked with different choreographers and directors, including: Jiri Kylian, Rui Horta, Itzik Galili, Richard Wherlock, Roberto Galvan, Mia Michaels, Karl Schreiner, Christian Spuck, Carlus Pardrissa, Johann Kresnik, Jean Renshaw, Philipp Stölzl.

Dominique Petit


Dominique Petit’s career started in New York with Paul Sanasardo. Returning to France to join the Paris Opera Theater Research Group under the direction of Carolyn Carlson for four years, he went on to present his first solo at Avignon Festival. His choreographic pieces have toured to major dance festivals in Europe, Asia and South America, including his most prolific works, Jade and Les tournesols. Before teaching full-time in the Conservatory of La Roche sur Yon, he spent seven years as a pedagogical coordinator of the CNDC of Angers. Dominique has developed an innovative improvisation technique and is regularly invited to facilitate masterclasses in major French institutions.

James Vu Anh Pham


James has been working extensively with Chunky Move - Anouk Van Dijk since 2012. Beside his collaborations with Eastman, Royal Ballet of Flanders, GöteborgsOperans Danskompani, Bayerische Staatsoper and Theater Basel, he has performed in Triumphs and Other Alternatives with Muscle Mouth and World of Wearable Art (2015). He was the lead role in Christophe Coppens’ Le Mandarin Merveilleux at La Monnaie. James received the ‘Best Male Dancer in a Dance or Physical Theatre Work’ 2014 Helpmann Award for his performance in 247 Days, and the Outstanding Performance by a Male Dancer 2014 Australian Dance Award for AORTA. He has been studying Countertechnique intensively since 2012, and became a certified teacher in 2014.

Mythili Prakash


Classically trained in the Indian dance form Bharatanatyam, Mythili Prakash was born in Los Angeles and grew up training with her mother/dancer Viji Prakash. Performing her solo debut at just eight years old, she has since presented her work world-wide. Mythili’s full length solos include: Stree Katha, Yamuna, Seasons of Love, Chandalika, AIKYA - through the voice of Akka Mahadevi and JWALA-Rising Flame. In 2009, she collaborated with musician Anoushka Shankar in Svatantrya, with writer/director Gowri Ramnarayan in Yashodhara in 2012 and her brother/musician Aditya Prakash in MARA in 2013. Mythili worked with Director Ang Lee in the film Life of Pi and was featured on NBC’s Superstars of Dance.

Sam Pratt


Sam Asa Pratt was born and raised in New York City and graduated from Bard College with degrees in Dance and Philosophy. Sam has performed with Kate Weare Company, David Dorfman Dance, Abraham in Motion, The Francesca Harper Project, and for the past two years has been a full-time company member in Punchdrunk’s New York production of Sleep No More. Sam is co-founder/director of movement art company Baye & Asa (@bayeandasa) presenting live performance and film work in NYC.

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